49ers bullied by Saints 24-3 in exhibition debut

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49ers bullied by Saints 24-3 in exhibition debut

Aug. 12, 2011
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- With the end zone a few strides away, Mark Ingram exhibited the explosive, tackle-breaking form that defined his Heisman Trophy career at Alabama.Ingram highlighted his NFL debut with a 14-yard touchdown run on which he bounced off a defender and spun to keep his balance, and the New Orleans Saints rolled to a 24-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the preseason opener for both teams on Friday night."Just being able to get in the end zone for the first time being an NFL player is special for me," said Ingram, who carried six times for 23 yards. "I just have to thank the line for blocking great. That's what really allowed me to get in. All I had to do was make one guy miss."While Ingram's run helped him match the hype that comes with being a first-round draft choice, another rookie with far less pedigree had the most spectacular play of the night.Joseph Morgan, a little known prospect who was undrafted out of Walsh University, scored on a 78-yard punt return during which he made one tackler miss with a spin move, slipped two other tackles as he made his way outside and then cut back across the field with breakaway speed."I really didn't think I was going to score at first," Morgan said. "After I got out to the (edge), the first thing I saw was the kicker, and they tell you if the kicker tackles you, don't even go back" to the bench.David Akers hit a 59-yard field goal for San Francisco, a kick set up by rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 28-yard scramble late in the first half.Starters played less than a quarter, and defense dominated during that scoreless stint.The game also marked the NFL head coaching debut of former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback who will want to see better performances out of starter Alex Smith and his offensive line.The Saints blitzed relentlessly and had six sacks in the first half."We had some errors in protection," Harbaugh said. "We've got to make them pay for that. We didn't capitalize on any of those opportunities. Therefore, they kept doing it."The Niners did not get a first down on their first four series, three of which were thwarted by hits on Smith.Will Smith had a sack and had another hit that caused an errant pass. Roman Harper had a sack and strip on a safety blitz, but the Niners recovered."There was some miscommunication, missed balls on passes," said Alex Smith, who was 2 of 7 passing for 10 yards. "It just wasn't good. I didn't feel that great about it. Obviously, it's the first preseason game. A lot of us have only had five or six practices under our belt."The Saints' normally prolific first-team offense wasn't much better, failing to produce a first down on its first three series. The second possession ended when Drew Brees was nearly intercepted by safety Donte Whitner. The third stalled when a long pass over the middle went through receiver Robert Meachem's hands.Brees' finished 1 of 4 for 6 yards before Chase Daniel came on to get New Orleans' first first down on a 19-yard scramble, which had 15 yards added for a late hit. That set up Garrett Hartley's 47-yard field goal for the first points of the game."We're not a team yet," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "We're a roster."Kaepernick played most of the game for the 49ers, and his scrambling ability was evident as he wound up being the 49ers leading rusher with 47 yards. He was 9 of 19 for 117 yards passing but also was intercepted twice, first by cornerback Terrail Lambert and later by rookie linebacker Nate Bussey.Daniel was 13 of 21 for 129 yards and led all three Saints scoring drives before being relieved by Sean Canfield in the final minutes. Joique Bell led New Orleans on the ground with 52 yards on nine carries.Ingram's touchdown gave the Saints a 17-0 lead late in the first half. Saints reserve running back Chris Taylor added a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the final margin.Morgan came into the game as a relatively unknown small college player who didn't even return punts at Walsh, where he was a receiver.While Darren Sproles will likely return punts in the regular season, Payton did not want him to do so in the preseason opener, which gave Morgan his chance."I was scared, nervous because I haven't done punts since I was a senior in high school," said Morgan, who also had one catch for 21 yards.Morgan is from Canton, Ohio, and played high school and college games on the same field where the Hall of Fame game is played. For one play in his pro debut, he even resembled some of the NFL greats enshrined in his hometown.Notes: Payton said Meachem had a lower back strain, which resulted from a painful shot he took while trying to block on Daniel's long scramble in the second quarter. ... Saints rookie CB Johnny Patrick hobbled to the bench in the second half with a right knee injury and was later carted to the locker room. Payton said trainers believe it was sprain. ... The Niners were 3 of 16 on third downs. ... San Francisco's team quarterback rating was 25.6.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

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Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.

But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.

Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?

Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.

“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”

And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”

In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.